Investigator says murdered DNC staffer in touch with WikiLeaks

A private investigator working for the family of Seth Rich, the DNC staffer who was murdered last July in what police concluded was a "botched robbery," says he has evidence that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks, the organization that published DNC emails.

Rich was shot and killed last July in Northwest D.C and police have suggested the killing in the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood was a botched robbery. However, online conspiracy theories have tied the murder to Rich's work at the DNC.

Just two months shy of the one-year anniversary of Rich's death, FOX 5 has learned there is new information that could prove these theorists right.

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death.

Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.

Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich's murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.

"The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming," said Wheeler. "They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both."

When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, "Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."

Wheeler also told us, "I have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, 'Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can't share any information with you.' Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don't think it comes from the chief's office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor's office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday].

Mr. Wheeler is not saying much new – at least to anyone who has followed this story since it broke in July 2016.  This account of what happened put together by Newsweek a month after Rich's slaying shows why there are still so many questions about the murder:

Rich was at a bar, alone, until 2:30 A.M., when he started home.  For some reason, he decided to walk the mile from the bar to his home that he shared with friends.  The route he took was not unusual, but it took him through a high-crime neighborhood plagued by muggings in recent months.

At 4:19 a.m., police patrolling nearby responded to the sound of gunfire in Bloomingdale and found Rich lying mortally wounded at a dark intersection a block and a half from a red-brick row house he shared with friends. He had multiple gunshot wounds in his back. About an hour and 40 minutes later, he died at a local hospital. Police have declined to say whether he was able to describe his assailants.

The cops suspected Rich was a victim of an attempted robbery, one of many that plague the neighborhood. Strangely, however, they found his wallet, credit cards and cellphone on his body. The band of his wristwatch was torn but not broken.

And that was enough to fire up the right-wing Twitterverse with yet another round of Clinton conspiracy theories, this one claiming that Rich was murdered – at dawn – as he was on his way to sing to the FBI about damning internal DNC emails.

Such sinister notions might have evaporated had not Julian Assange hurled a thunderbolt into the affair a few weeks later. The WikiLeaks impresario, still penned up in Ecuador's London embassy as he dodges a rape allegation in Sweden, announced he was offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the Rich case. He hinted darkly that the slain man had been a source in his organization's recent publication of 30,000 internal DNC emails. The fallout from that embarrassment had led to the firing of several top Democratic Party officials.

"What are you suggesting?" a startled interviewer from Dutch television asked him.

"I am suggesting," Assange said, "that our sources, ah, take risks, and they, they become concerned to see things occurring like that." His organization later "clarified" on Twitter that "this should not be taken to imply that Seth Rich was a source for WikiLeaks or to imply that his murder is connected to our publications."

But Assange had already lit the fire. No matter that the Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement saying there was "no indication that Seth Rich's death is connected to his employment at the DNC." Right-wing media outlets continued to churn up sludge from the tragedy. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, normally cautious, may have inadvertently aided their cause during a crime-scene press conference on August 5, when she said, "Right now, we have more questions than answers." No suspects have been arrested, despite the MPD's $25,000 reward for information.

If Rich left the bar at 2:30 A.M., why did police not respond to gunfire until 4:20 A.M.?  How long does it take to walk a mile?  What was Rich doing in the meantime?

If this was a "botched robbery," why weren't any of the young man's valuables taken?

What the heck was Assange talking about?

The police have given no satisfactory answers to those and other questions, which makes Newsweek's mocking of "right-wing" conspiracy theories laughable.  Aren't they the least bit curious about any of this?

At the time of the Newsweek story, Rich's parents wanted all the speculation to stop, calling the conspiracy-mongering "hurtful," as I imagine it was.  So what changed their minds?  It will be interesting to hear their response to that question at the news conference scheduled for later today.

The real kicker is this: Assange never directly identified Rich as a "source."  But he was certainly in a position to supply at least some of the emails to WikiLeaks.  And, even more provocatively, it's never been firmly established that there was an actual hack of the DNC servers that was responsible for all the thousands of emails WikiLeaks published.  In other words, Rich might have been one source for WikiLeaks, while the Russians – widely believed to have given WikiLeaks hacked emails – were responsible for others.

I don't think Wheeler has anything.  He claims emails showing contact with WikiLeaks on Rich's computer, but he admits he's never seen them because either the police or the FBI is in possession of it.  His "evidence" of a police and FBI cover-up is even weaker.  He has a source in the department who looked him "right in the eye" – as if this is proof that the source was telling the truth.

Unless new evidence emerges or a new witness comes forward, events surrounding the death of Seth Rich are likely to remain a mystery.

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